IM test: How we did it

Our testing methodology for a review of instant messaging products.

We evaluated each product's instant messaging capabilities, responsiveness, ease of use and ability to integrate with other IM products and protocols, such as AOL Instant Messenger. We wanted the products to integrate with Windows Active Directory and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol. Archiving messages for auditing purposes was a key criterion. To gauge security, we measured each product's ability to identify and thwart the sending of malware to IM clients, and we tested the products' ability to securely identify and authenticate users appropriately. We tested each product's special features, as well as its VoIP and presence capabilities. We also looked for scalability, reliability, low network-resource consumption, ease of installation and documentation quality.

Virtually all our testing took place across 512Kbps frame relay, T-1 and T-3 WAN links. The test bed network consisted of six Fast Ethernet subnet domains routed by Cisco routers. Our lab's 50 clients used computing platforms that included Windows NT/98/2000/2003/ME/XP/Vista, Red Hat Linux and Mac OS X. The relational databases on the network were Oracle 8i, IBM DB2 Universal Database, Sybase Adaptive Server 12.5 and Microsoft SQL Server 2000. The network also contained three Web servers (Microsoft Internet Information Server, Netscape Enterprise Server and Apache), three e-mail servers (Exchange, Notes and Sendmail) and two file servers (Windows 2003 Advanced Server and Novell NetWare).

A Compaq ProLiant ML570 computer with four 900MHz CPUs, 2GB RAM and 135GB hard disks, running Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Windows 2003 Advanced Server and at other times, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, was our test platform for all the products' server components. We tested Jabber's Extensible Communications Server 5.2 on Red Hat Linux (a vendor recommendation) and all the other products' server components on Windows Server.

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